Every once in a while, a doll captures the imagination of a generation. For many Long Islanders who grew up in the 1980s, that doll was a Cabbage Patch Kid — and some people who “adopted” them have held onto their originals to hand down to their children or because they hoped they would soar in value.
The Cabbage Patch Kids were a “must-have” holiday toy of the early 1980s, and Long Islanders tell stories of sleeping outside a store to be sure to get a doll, of a flight attendant storing a passenger’s score in the cockpit for fear others might swipe it and even of driving to Georgia to get their hands on one.
“I remember the first frenzy around Christmas,” says Robin Rostron, 43, a recruiter from St. James. “Everybody on the East Coast was searching for these dolls.” This was before Facebook parent groups shared helpful information; parents had to do their own legwork, signing up for waiting lists, making fevered phone calls and imploring relatives and friends to be on the lookout.
“People were lunatics,” says Anita Arnold, 69, a retired consultant from Massapequa. She says her husband, Jimmy, was the passenger whose doll was locked in the cockpit on a flight from Florida to New York. That doll was for a niece, but Arnold’s daughter, Stacy Peters, 39, a stay-at-home mother also of Massapequa, still has her own Cabbage Patch Kids doll, which bears creator Xavier Roberts’ stamped signature.
The dolls were born in Cleveland, Georgia, in 1978, when Roberts, an artist, created hand-stitched fabric dolls he called Little People. The dolls, said to have been found in a cabbage patch, could be “adopted” for a fee. In 1982, Xavier’s company, Original Appalachian Artworks, licensed the name Cabbage Patch Kids and in 1983 more than 2.5 million dolls were created. Each came with a name and an adoption certificate for an adoption fee of $25. Today, Wicked Cool toys manufactures and markets the brand’s Little Sprouts, Cabbage Patch Kid Cuties, and Classic Kids, Newborn and Babies. But it’s the dolls of the ‘80s that launched a cultural phenomenon.
Terri Troise, 54, a retired New York City detective from Baiting Hollow, was in her late teens when she and her late mom slept overnight outside a department store in Lake Success so they could get dolls for her two younger sisters. "They were only giving one per person, so me and my mom had to go," Troise says. "We had jackets and we had blankets."
Amy O’Hara, 42, a stay-at-home mother from Massapequa Park, remembers getting a doll in 1983 as a gift from her parents. “My mom was the crazy mom waiting on line to get one,” O’Hara says. And this past Christmas, O’Hara passed that same doll to her daughter, Casey, 3, along with half-dozen other Cabbage Patch Kids she accumulated over the 1980s.
Linda Hoffman, 72, of Lindenhurst, who is retired from medical insurance customer service, and her two sisters, Virginia Masone, 73, a retired homemaker from Lindenhurst, and Pat Brower, 70, a retired civil engineering technician from East Setauket, all purchased Cabbage Patch Kids in the 1980s. Brower even drove to Babyland General Hospital, the home of the Cabbage Patch Kids in Cleveland, Georgia, with her family to adopt a doll. Admission to Babyland, which is still a Georgia tourist attraction that draws more than a quarter of a million visitors a year, is free; visitors can watch the "birth" of Cabbage Patch kids and bring one home, says Colleen Gilday, consultant for Original Appalachian Artworks.
Hoffman had planned to hold onto her dolls for a future potential granddaughter. But Hoffman never passed on the gift; she still has the dolls in their original box in her closet, a set of 1985 Cabbage Patch twins in red velvet dresses with the original price of $69.99. “You were so afraid they wouldn’t take care of them like I would have,” Hoffman says. Adds Masone: “Maybe we thought they would be worth some money someday.”
That “someday” hasn’t arrived — because the market was so flooded in the 1980s, they haven’t increased in value, says Eileen Caplin Wysel, owner of Bobb Howard’s General Store and Auto Repair Shop in New Hyde Park, which sells nostalgic candy and toys. “Supply and demand,” she says.
Gregory Albarano, owner of Apollo’s Antiques, operated out of his Bethpage home, agrees. He says that at least once a week he comes across Cabbage Patch Kids at yard sales, estate sales, online or from people who solicit him for prices. Most of the dolls sell from $25 or $30, he says; the ones that sell for hundreds or more are the rarer dolls that are still in their boxes and have all their accessories. “In general, nine out of 10 of them are really worth peanuts,” he says.
That doesn’t matter to many Long Islanders, who cherish the dolls for their sentimental value. “When you look at it, you think of how hard it was to get it,” Brower says. “You value it as a part of the kids’ childhood.”
Patchogue Doll Fanciers Club of Long Island's 43rd annual Doll Show and Sale
WHAT About 70 tables of vendors will sell dolls, accessories and more.
WHEN|WHERE 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 13 at the Radisson Hotel, 110 Vanderbilt Motor Pkwy., Hauppauge
INFO $7 per adult; $6 per senior; kids 12 and younger are free; 631-981-9332